Physical Oceanography Department
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Associate Scientist Dave Fratantoni, left, with Nelson Hogg, confirming that a glider is operational before open-water deployment. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI)
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Research in the Physical Oceanography Department is focused on the description and understanding of the evolving state of the ocean and its interaction with the atmosphere and the Earth, and its impact on climate change. Traditionally, we have identified ourselves with making new observations at sea but our scientists also contribute importantly in theory, numerical and laboratory modeling, and the design and fabrication of new instrumentation.

We continue to work in many parts of the global ocean. This past year has seen scientists from the department on cruises to the Arctic (Peter Winsor, Andrey Proshutinsky), Hudson Strait (Fiamma Straneo), the tropical Atlantic (Al Plueddemann), the eastern Pacific and Hawaii (Bob Weller), the western Pacific (Nelson Hogg and Steven Jayne) and the eastern North Atlantic (Terry Joyce and Mike McCartney). In addition, a major new program called CLIMODE (CLIvar MOde Water Dynamic Experiment) was begun with its inaugural cruise in November. The field phase of this ambitious study of the processes responsible for the formation and maintenance of the relatively homogeneous water mass found on the south side of the Gulf Stream will continue through the end of 2007. It involves a number of people in the department as well as several other institutions.

A major event of 2005 was the hosting of a visiting committee composed of five well-respected physical oceanographers from other American institutions and one trustee. The committee spent most of three days interviewing all members of the staff. They concluded that the “quality of the Department is unassailable: the WHOI Physical Oceanography Department presently remains one of the premier physical oceanography research groups in the world.” The keyword is “presently” and in their report, the committee offered 18 recommendations designed to help keep the department at the forefront.

This past year saw the departure of Bernadette Sloyan who returned to her native Australia to pursue her interest in the Southern Ocean. We also hired three new assistant scientists. Leif Thomas comes to us from the University of Washington and has an interest in theoretical aspects of upper ocean physics and its coupling to the atmosphere. Mary-Louise Timmermans was a postdoctoral fellow in the department prior to accepting a position on the scientific staff. Her specialty is Arctic oceanography and she will strengthen our already substantial expertise in this area. Finally, Annalisa Bracco comes to us from the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy. Her specialty is numerical modeling, which she uses to gain understanding of problems related to climate variability, and mixing properties of passive (for example, floats) and active (i.e. plankton) tracers.

Four longtime department members retired this year: Marg Pacheco, Chris Wooding, Jack Reese, and Anne-Marie Michaels. Memorials for Dave Chapman and Ryan Schrawder, both of whom died prematurely the previous year, were commemorated. In addition, funds for a lecture series honoring the legacy of Senior Scientist Dave Chapman were secured through private donations and a generous award from the Office of Naval Research. It is expected that the first lecture will occur in the coming summer.

Finally, my term as Chair will end in July 2006. A search committee, headed by Senior Scientist Amy Bower, was formed in late 2005 to choose a new Chair.

—Nelson Hogg, Department Chair

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